Innterview with Bogusława Bębnik, vocational counsellor about work in the creative industry. Creative professions – situations of artists and circumstances leading to the choice of an artistic career.

Anna Ochmann: You have been a vocational counsellor for many years. In your work do you meet artists or people who would like to use their artistic talent to earn a living?

Bogusława Bębnik:  During my work as a vocational counsellor I have got to know more closely people looking for work in creative sectors (among others, crafts especially handicrafts in the widest sense, design or music). The main aim of these projects was support for the stakeholders in their work. I was able to observe very quickly that in spite of large differences between people in these groups there were two typical factors which determined their futures. First is a question of their choice of vocation, second – a lowered sense of the value of their work.

AO: What do you mean by “the question of their choice of vocation”?

BB: A large number of people decide to start working in the creative sector rather late (very often after finishing other courses of study) and after an initial – often unsuccessful -professional experience. This situation makes the whole process of creating for yourself a satisfying vocational position in your chosen sphere much longer.

AO: This is very interesting. Your observations are similar to our research on creative people and artists in the world of work conducted by Arteria Foundation in recent years. And what about your second observation – “a lowered sense of the value of their work”?

BB: In spite of obvious enthusiasm and frequent high quality of the products of the people who are looking for advice, very often they are not able to realistically evaluate their work and this means they are not able to present their work or projects convincingly. This   lowered sense of the value of their work very often makes it difficult for them to put a realistic value on their creations or projects. It also doesn’t allow them to carry out their plans for work connected with their interests. In this case their frustration with what they see as the necessity to earn a living in another sphere may have a negative psychological impact on their lives. In the wider perspective this situation in no way helps them to realise their potential.

AO: Where do these problem come from?

BB: One of my hypotheses is that it originates in the present educational system, which unfortunately has been the same from XIX century. This system was designed two hundred years ago to produce obedient workers, often doing routine, repetitive work. Today pupils in most schools need the agreement and acceptance of the teacher to do anything (even basic physiological functions). In spite of existing legislation few schools allow their pupils to make choices in the learning process (books, themes of work, conditions of the learning process, methods and techniques for doing different tasks). In this situation people who need freedom and autonomy, who look for creative solutions don’t do well – even then their potential is restricted and cannot develop. In such situations, when what we do is directed by others, it’s difficult to grow into a person who has sufficiently high self-esteem, who knows their own capabilities and is able to make good decisions for themselves.

AO: Such a creative student, who doesn’t fit the mould is often labelled a trouble maker in our educational system and is seen as a problem among obedient children in the class.

BB: Of course. Most important in the current educational system are academic skills: reading, writing, counting, ability to memorise large amounts of material. In teaching programs and schemes of work for educational subjects there is little space for activities connected with being creative, being reflective, analysing feelings and experiences and giving them value – so, the kind of activities which allow students to discover their identity, to get to know themselves and their possibilities. In addition the few hours allocated to subjects like music or art and the low status of these subjects lead the students and their parents to believe that these subjects are less valuable, less important. It’s easy to see that this perception is directly connected both with the fact that a child gets no support if they decide to choose artistic studies and for the same child as an adult, to make this decision.

AO: Lack of support or even acceptance of artistic choices by children are one of the important themes which frequently have occurred in our research.

BB: The authorities in vocational counselling agree that choices and decisions based on personal preferences and interests give the biggest chance for a satisfying and successful professional life. Unfortunately, very often artistic enthusiasts connected with the art world, do not have equal chances and conditions to allow them to develop and achieve even at the beginning of their professional career. They often feel the results themselves – struggling with difficulties in their work in the profession they didn’t want and with the frustrations arising from this. This impacts on the whole of society, which cannot use the potential of such a large group of people.

AO: Thank you